Friday, February 16, 2018

Kevin Purcell on "10 Ways Your Bible Software Needs to Improve"

Kevin Purcell on his Theotek by Kevin blog has posted an excellent critique of ten ways he thinks Bible software needs to improve. He has deep experience with all the major Bible software options, so his observations are well-founded. I'll add some comments to his observations based on my use of Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos.
  1. Stylus Support in Bible Software: I have a Dell Venue Pro with a 10" screen that can work fairly well with a stylus, but I really don't use the kind of handwriting markup that Kevin is asking for. Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos each have a variety of highlighting and markup schemes that have been sufficient for me. (Accordance and Logos have quite a few options for adding iconographic markers to a text. They all have good ways of adding morphological markup which is more important to me.)
  2. Better Bible Software Touchscreen Support: I agree! Using my 10" tablet without a mouse, I know exactly what Kevin means by having buttons and icons too small to touch with big fingers. BibleWorks is probably best in this regard, because it offers easy option for screen scaling including adjustment of the toolbar size. It's also a handy feature that I use when projecting the screen in the classroom.
  3. Get My Notes Out of Your Silo: I've used BibleWorks the longest, and one of the things I appreciated from the outset was, as Kevin notes, that all the user notes are saved in RTF format which can easily be opened in any word processor. (The BW files use the BWW file extension for use in the program, but they are truly just RTF files.) The real issue here is if your Bible software should crash or cease to be supported at some point. You don't want your notes all locked inside the program. I have not done much with notetaking in Accordance or Logos, but I've found it to be less intuitive, and they are not open in the way that BW notes are.
  4. Sync Notes and User Content Between All Platforms AUTOMATICALLY!: Yes, and Logos really does the best job at this. They use their own server, and when I move from home to seminary system, everything is just as I last left it. Accordance is using Dropbox as a middleman, and it mostly works, but it is has not been totally reliable for me on my Windows systems with various screen resolutions. Kevin also notes how Accordance requires the user to be sure to save and sync notes. BW automatically saves notes, but it does not have a syncing option at all. What I have done that accomplishes what I need is to use SugarSync to sync up all my notes, searches, databases, etc. This works great, but I cannot sync up the layouts in BW since it depends on system paths and screen resolutions. 
  5. Reduce Clicks for Simple Tasks: Reducing clicks is a good goal, but there often is a tradeoff. I can do many tasks most quickly in BW using the command line, but that's because I'm so familiar with using it. For beginning users, the command line can be daunting, and that's where the step-by-step clicking in Accordance and Logos can be more intuitive. 
  6. Add a Note in One Tap/Click: As Kevin notes, it takes a few clicks in Logos. Accordance has the pencil icon to let you take a note right away, but you need to remember to save your note. Most of my work has been in BibleWorks, and the Notes and the Editor windows are perfect for doing this. (In BW, the Editor tab is for accumulating notes on a topic. The Notes tab is for notes tied to a specific verse.) You do have to have the Editor or Notes tabs visible to add/edit notes, and BW only has a subtle way of reminding you that you have notes attached to a verse or chapter. (A little "v" or "c" appears on the Notes tab.) 
  7. Save Space and Let Me Pick What Books to Install: Yes! And as Kevin notes, Logos is the problem here. I have a SDD on my home system w/ limited space and even less space on my seminary system, and Logos is claiming over 30GB of it. I'd love to get rid of a ton of resources in Logos I never use...
  8. Tagged Bible Comparison Tool for Word Studies Within the Tool: One of the things I like for text comparison is to be able to export a number of versions into my word processor so I can have students markup and comment upon versions in view of the Greek. BibleWorks is the only program that can really handle this, and I have things set up so that with basically two clicks I can generate the kind of parallel in the graphic here.
    Within the program, BW really thinks in terms of verses, so their Browse Window shows whatever versions you want all in the one window with access to all analytical tools. (And BW further is notable for the many worthwhile versions included in their base package.) What BW lacks, however, is the kind of reverse interlinear coding that allows one to see quickly how words are translate across a number of versions. Accordance and Logos are good in this regard with versions that have such coding. (ESV, NIV, NRSV, Lexham) Accordance does this either with the interlinear view or by adding a parallel to a window, and all analytical resources are available. In Logos, it can be done with various linked windows or by using the Multiple Resource view. As Kevin notes, Logos has a nice text comparison tool with either horizontal or column layout, BUT it loses most of the analytical tools for studying the text. While the text comparisons and interlinears are exportable or copy/paste-able in Accordance and Logos, you have very little control over how it will turn out.
    What do I regard as ideal? BibleWorks ability to export what I noted above is critical. For viewing multiple versions in parallel, the BW display is sometimes useful, but it could be enhanced with cross-version sympathetic highlighting. The Accordance layout is most helpful for seeing a verse in context with sympathetic highlighting. 
  9. Create Books Without Programming Language and Sync My User Created Books to Mobile Devices and Other Computers: I haven't had much need for this, but I have appreciated the contributions of others. BibleWorks is probably the most open for allowing the creation of new resources, and there are a ton of excellent resources on the BW blog. BW10 also created a way to easily import epubs into the program. Accordance has quite a bit of shared material on their Exchange. Logos offers shared resources in the FaithLife group.
  10. Export Books to Kindle, Word or PDF: As Kevin notes, this is more of an issue of licensing, and I don't do much with this.
Thanks to Kevin for the insightful post that actually had 11 ways (I combined two into #9) to improve Bible software.

Accordance Mobile for Android now available

Accordance software has been available for Mac, Windows, and mobile iOS, but it has just recently become available for Android as well. It isn't as full-featured as the Logos app or have as many available versions as YouVersion, but for users of Accordance and Android this is a very welcome addition.
Accordance for Android is free, and the starter version does come with the ESV w/ Strong's and a good number of other resources. (Listing here) For existing users of Accordance, most of your resources in your package can be installed on the Android version.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Countdown to the Perseus 5.0

Via James Tauber on Twitter, I just found out about the upcoming Perseus 5.0 "Scaife." He's starting a series of blog posts introducing what's ahead. Perseus is already an incredible resource, and I'm eager to see what's in store. From Tauber's initial post:
The Scaife reader builds on the existing Perseus Digital Library, the Open Greek and Latin project and the work of many digital classicists over the years committed to producing openly-licensed material. The code we are developing will, appropriately, also be released under an open source license and an important goal is to build a sustainable community around the code base for the future of philology and historical languages, not just Latin and Greek but well beyond.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Bible Atlases - Updating listing and review

Back in 2013, I posted about my search for a good Bible atlas (HERE and HERE) that I could use for a class I teach surveying the lands of the Bible. I realize that I never followed up with my decision on which atlas I chose. I first used the New Moody Bible Atlas, but I switched to the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, and this latter one has turned out to be excellent for my purposes.
I have, however, compiled a list of 15 atlases I surveyed with annotations on their content and my impressions. I also have noted which are available in Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos along with other resources.
You can see my summary HERE.
There are doubtless a number I haven't included, either because I don't know about them, they were primarily devotional, or they were more intended as travel handbooks rather than course textbooks. If I missed one you think I should review, let me know. Thanks.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Online and Free Bible Study Resources Updated - Sites, Programs, Apps

Online and Free Bible Study Resources (updated 2018.01.27)
The variety of online Bible study resources continues to change. This is my latest list I share with students. These are all worthwhile resources, and you need to check to see which works best for you and your desired platform. I've starred* ones that you should probably check first. Also remember that for deeper study, you probably want something like Accordance, BibleWorks, or Logos.

  • ONLINE BIBLE SITES which provide extra helps for English readers to study the underlying Greek and Hebrew
    • NET Bible Study Environment*
      Especially check this one. It gives you access to the NET Bible notes which we will regularly consult in class. Use the Grk/Heb tab in the right column, and you will see how it highlights the matching English and Greek words. Double-click on a Greek word to get a rudimentary lexicon entry. Use the Parallel tab on the left to see NET, NIV, NASB, ESV, NLT, MSG, NRSV, and KJV together.
    • STEP Bible*
      Another outstanding site with both original language and many English version texts (NET, NIV, ESV, KJV…). Like the NET Bible Study Environment, it can highlight matching Greek/Hebrew//English words, and has links to many lexical resources.
    • Excellent site that is very nice for comparing original and translated versions with access to lexical resources. Many English versions including NRSV, NASB, ESV, KJV, NAB, NIV, NLT…
    • Bible Web App: Less full featured, but it’s fast and includes the NET with all notes. Parallel highlighting of Greek/Hebrew//English with Strong’s lexical popups.
    • Tyndale Tool Bar: Provides access to Bible texts and articles
  • OTHER ONLINE SITES primarily for English language study
    • YouVersion*: The primary attraction of this site is the abundance of Bibles it offers, both English (e.g., CEB, CEV, CJB, ESV, GNB, HCSB, KJV, LEB, Message, NAB, NASB, NCV, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT) and nearly countless non-English ones. For Greek, it includes SBL GNT and Textus Receptus, and the Westminster Leningrad for the Hebrew. Two texts can be set in parallel.
    • BibleGateway*: There are too many English (and it does include the NRSV), non-English, Greek, and Hebrew versions to list. If you want to compare English versions, you can see a verse in every version they offer with a single click. There are quite a few linked resources, but many need you to subscribe for $4 USD/month.
    • FaithLife: This is the online site. Many original and modern language versions are available, but the best part is the connection with the FaithLife Study Bible.
    • Bible Hub: A nice collection of resources. The Atlas alone is quite helpful.

  • FREE DOWNLOADABLE PROGRAMS and APPS if you don't already have Accordance, BibleWorks, or Logos
    • Logos Academic Basic*: If you are a student, staff, or faculty person at an educational institution, this should be your first option. A more basic version of Logos is also available as an app for Android or iPhone.
    • The Word*: The Word is one of the first I recommend to people wanting a free program, since it is rather full featured program. It includes Greek / Hebrew. You can always buy some modules, e.g., NRSV, to expand its versatility. Among many non-English versions, free English versions include: Douay-Rheims, ERV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, Tanakh 1917, NET (but with limited notes), LEB. For Greek: LXX, SBL GNT, and other Greek text. For Hebrew: a tagged Hebrew Bible.  Only runs on Windows or under Mac emulation.
    • Olive Tree: This free Bible app is available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and Android. Once you get the app, check out the free resources. It includes SBL GNT and Hebrew Westminster Leningrad. For English, it includes many of the usual versions (KJV, NKJV, ESV, limited versions of HCSB and NET, Douay-Rheims, Tanakh 1917), but it does also offer the NIV. A number of useful study tools can also be added.
    • BibleGateway: Similar to the online version described above, the app is available for iPad, iPhone, Android, and Kindle.
    • e-Sword: The basic installation includes the KJV with Strong’s and its related lexicon along with a few other resources. Once installed, there are many other free Bibles and resources that can be added. Windows and Mac.
    • LaParola: Does a nice job of creating concordance lists and working with text variants (Windows and Linux)
    • MySword*: A fine Android app which I recommend along with the YouVersion app
    • YouVersion*: Available for Windows and just about any mobile device. It is similar to the online version described above.
    • FaithLife Study Bible: It's free and available for just about all platforms. It's a Logos product and uses their rather literally translated Lexham Bible. It comes from a conservative perspective, so you need some discernment, but many of its study features, especially the FaithLife Study Bible itself, can be helpful. (E.g., go to Phil 1.1 for The Life of Paul graphic.) 
    • WORDsearch 11: Offers a free basic version. There are more than enough resources to get you started, and they have a large collection of resources for purchase to expand your work. For Windows and Mac. 
    • Since I have Logos, I use their included Logos app most often on my phone. I’ve noted a number of the programs above which have mobile editions, but for more information on mobile Bible apps, look HERE.